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Okubo falls flat as Frontale lose to Marinos

Kyodo

Japan striker Yoshito Okubo fired blanks in his final J. League game before the World Cup as Kawasaki Frontale were soundly beaten 3-0 by Yokohama F. Marinos in the Kanagawa derby on Sunday.

The J. League heads into the break for the June 12-July 13 World Cup and will restart July 15 with Urawa Reds leading by one point over Sagan Tosu.

Yuzo Kurihara, Sho Ito and Yuji Nakazawa were on the scoresheet for Marinos, who improved to 17 points, 12 points off the pace of Reds. Kawasaki stood on 21 points after losing for the first time in five matches.

Okubo said Frontale were their own worst enemy, and did not try to hide what was a poor performance. The 2010 World Cup winger, however, said he was not going to lose any sleep over it, with national team camp set to begin on Wednesday in Kagoshima Prefecture.

“We were the problem today,” the 31-year-old Okubo said. “We let a team good at protecting leads score first, and you can’t do that.

“It would’ve been nice if we won, but you can’t win them all. I’ve forgotten about it already because there’s nothing worth remembering. My mind is on the national team now.”

On a glorious afternoon before a sellout crowd of 19,668 at Todoroki Stadium, all eyes were on Kawasaki’s surprise World Cup selection Okubo.

But as with the rest of the Frontale team following their midweek defeat at FC Seoul in the Asian Champions League, Okubo was flat and tested Marinos goalkeeper Tetsuya Enomoto just once all game.

Okubo’s teammate in Brazil, Manabu Saito of Marinos, was more involved, creating his team’s second in the 57th minute with a run into the box for Ito, who hit the back of the net with his left foot.

The visitors had drawn first blood shortly before the break through Kurihara, who missed Alberto Zaccheroni’s cut for what would have been his first World Cup.

Captain Shunsuke Nakamura set things in motion with a ball from the left wing in the 43rd minute, and Kurihara nodded over Yohei Nishibe’s line by the far post for his second goal of the campaign.

Frontale did not have a single shot on target in the second half, and Nakazawa underlined Marinos’ victory — just their second in the last 10 games — with a thundering volley from a Nakamura corner in the 88th minute to close out the scoring, a surefire candidate for goal of the year.

Okubo, who has been recalled by Zaccheroni for the first time in more than two years, said he is not feeling an ounce of pressure ahead of the World Cup.

“I don’t feel any pressure at all,” said Okubo, who was surprised over his call-up. “I’m looking forward to it. Everyone else on the team is saying we’re out to win it, and I’m with them on that.

“If you’re not in it to win it, what’s the point?”

In the day’s other game, Vegalta Sendai upset champions Sanfrecce Hiroshima 1-0 at home, holding on to an early lead staked out by Shingo Akamine in the 16th minute.